In this (…) agnostic age, picking up the Bible can be just as startling an act of rebellion in many households. So it proves in Kirill Serebrennikov’s splendid The Student, a stormy, swoon-inducingly shot bout of Russian moral wrestling (…).
(S)ulkily handsome teenager Venya attends side-by-side classes with patient Orthodox priest and more spikily atheistic biology teacher Elena, each of whom is free to represent their own spiritual views (…) in their lessons. When Venya angrily protests (…) against Elena’s unquestioning teaching of evolutionary theory, the school’s conservative-leaning principal wearily suggests that Elena incorporate creationism into her syllabus. Such unsustainable compromise (…) calls into question the scientific educator’s responsibility (…).
As Venya’s spiritual awakening spirals violently out of control, Serebrennikov’s filmmaking soars and swells with grandly tragic volume (…). (T)he sense of all these characters being on an ineluctable collision course (…) is brilliantly entrenched by the film’s restless visual language.
Guy Lodge, Variety